Combating weapons proliferation
The Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 2 April 2013. This treaty stipulates that a country may not export conventional arms to another country if there is any risk of them being used to commit acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. This is an important step in the fight against weapons proliferation. Handicap International is working in 20 countries to raise awareness of the risks posed by small arms and explosive remnants of war.
Awareness campaign poster on the dangers associated with explosive remnants of war and small arms in Libya. | © Handicap International
Since February 2016, Handicap International has been running a risk education campaign on the dangers associated with explosive remnants of war and small arms in Northern Mali where there is a significant proliferation of such weapons, resulting in countless accidents: “The messages we want to get across are based on common sense,” explains Pascal Mvogo, Armed Violence Reduction Project Manager in Mali. “Children should not be allowed to handle weapons; they should only ever be used by professionals such as the army or police... Our goal is to reduce the number of accidents.”
In Northern Mali and Libya, everyone is armed. Combating the proliferation of weapons requires a commitment on the part of the international community. In this respect, the Arms Trade Treaty represents a huge step forward.
The text stipulates that every State Party must control its arms exports. It is forbidden to export arms where there is a risk of them being used to attack civilians or their property. Before any transaction, a State must also weigh up whether the arms sold might be used to circumvent an international embargo, commit genocide or other serious human rights violations or fall into the hands of terrorist or criminal organisations.
“This is a strong treaty,” explains Marion Libertucci, Advocacy Coordinator at Handicap International, “insofar as it requires governments to evaluate those who procure arms; in particular, when deciding whether or not to export arms, they must take into account the risk that the arms being sold to an individual State may be diverted towards other users. It is now essential that State Parties strictly apply these requirements to evaluate all arms export applications so that this treaty can have a real impact.”
In Libya and Mali for example, the weapons that end up in the hands of armed gangs have usually been traded legally. In Libya, arms purchased by the State are turned against the Libyan people, before falling into the hands of non-state armed militias. In the long run, the treaty should make it possible to avoid this kind of situation.